Since 2011, the Be a Scientist project has been introducing pupils from schools in Geneva, the Pays de Gex and Haute-Savoie to the scientific research process. The pupils, aged between 8 and 12, come up with hypotheses, collect data and use facts and figures to work out the contents of boxes provided by CERN that they are not allowed to open or damage.
This year, to mark the project’s tenth anniversary, the roles were reversed. In June 2021, pupils from the Jean de la Fontaine school (Prévessin-Moëns, France) and the Cérésole school (Petit-Lancy, Switzerland) hid various objects in two boxes and challenged CERN’s scientists to identify them.
Five pairs of scientists carried out investigations over several months. Each pair, in turn, put their resourcefulness to the test, combining theory and facts in an attempt to solve the mystery. Armed with scales, magnets, an infrared camera and even an endoscope, they performed several experiments, not all of which were very successful... The final team was at a considerable advantage, however, as they were able to X-ray the boxes.
The Schools Challenge was rounded off in style on Friday, 13 May 2022, in CERN’s Globe of Science and Innovation, where the children got to meet the scientists who had taken up their challenge and revealed the contents of the boxes to them. The sound from the Swiss box was effectively coming from a bell, as the CERN detectives had guessed, and the bell was attached to a cow made of plastic beads. However, the teams got a surprise when they discovered that the origin of the beeping noise from the French box was a “Klockis” alarm-timer and not a metal detector! The boxes contained other surprises too (tea for the smell, a metal plate to create magnetism, an oloid for its misleading shape, a lemon for the loss of weight, etc.), so the children had missed no opportunity to throw the scientists off the scent.
You can find the video and photos of the closing event on the event website.
Go to the voisins.cern website to find out more about the scientists’ invesitgations and the latest news from the Schools Challenge programme.